The first College Football Playoff bracket will be announced Sunday and some schools and a conference will be furious.
The fury could be contained to the Big 12.
Saturday ended with TCU and Baylor as co-champions after the Horned Frogs crushed Iowa State 55-3, taking a knee to keep from scoring late, and the Bears got past a game Kansas State team 38-27 later that evening.
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Both performances were worthy of teams that could contend for the national title.
But the inaugural championship bracket that’s being determined and announced Sunday from a hotel in Grapevine, Texas, with its final game in Arlington, Texas, could incur the wrath of two teams from Texas from a conference based in Irving, Texas.
Things may have taken an anti-Big 12 turn Saturday night with Ohio State’s resounding victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, and Florida State’s typical dance-with-the-devil victory, this one over Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast title game.
The Buckeyes could have played their way onto — and the Seminoles not out of — the bracket.
The committee’s order last week went like this: Alabama, Oregon, TCU, Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor.
In traditional rating practice, teams rarely fall upon a victory. But the playoff committee rankings haven’t been typical. Last week, the Horned Frogs leaped over Florida State after both teams won.
Sunday’s announcement will reveal what the committee values most: strength at the moment, body of work, non-conference schedule ambition … all could be factors in a final decision.
But don’t be shocked if the committee unveils an old-school Rose Bowl of Oregon-Ohio State and a sweet Southern Sugar Bowl of Alabama-Florida State.
Or a Big 12 team could make it. After all, if it comes down to selecting Ohio State, TCU or Baylor, the Buckeyes have the worst loss of the bunch, falling at home to Virginia Tech. The Frogs are ranked higher. The Bears beat a better ranked team on Saturday than Ohio State.
However it plays out, here’s hoping the teams that won conference titles over the past two days spent more time enjoying the accomplishment rather than thinking about a bracket, especially the Big 12 teams.
Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State celebrating conference success is a familiar sight to their fans. TCU and Baylor reveled in their moments before adoring home fans on Saturday.
At Fort Worth, the sea of purple surrounded the podium and trophy presentation. A Gatorade-soaked Gary Patterson took the microphone and shouted that he loved the TCU fans, and then sang words the school has waited more than two decades to hear.
“TCU is the Big 12 champion!”
When the league opened for competitive business in 1996, the Horned Frogs were brushed aside in a Texas political power play that swept Baylor and Texas Tech into the conference along with Texas and Texas A&M.
TCU was every bit as worthy as the Bears or Red Raiders, they argued, but without friends in high places, the Frogs wandered from conference to conference. They were finally admitted to the Big 12 along with West Virginia when Texas A&M and Missouri left.
Patterson’s overseen the process for 14 years, passing on overtures from bigger-budget programs through the years to nurture the Frogs’ growth, and on Saturday he reached the top.
So did Baylor, for the second straight year. The Bears became the first Big 12 team to repeat as league champion since Oklahoma’s run of three straight through 2008.
The Bears finished last in division play in 12 of the first 14 Big 12 seasons. Only this year did the program pass Kansas for all-time conference victories. Along came Art Briles, who brought along quarterback Robert Griffin III, and Baylor became nationally relevant. The momentum created McLane Stadium, which opened this year and is as spectacular a setting that exists in college football.
The Bears got in the final word. After accepting his Big 12 trophy, Briles, who hadn’t said much about the prospect of sharing the title with TCU, shouted into the microphone, “As our conference states, there’s one true champion, and it’s the Baylor Bears!”
Baylor fans got in the act, chanting, “One true champ.”
Earlier in the week, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he wouldn’t designate Baylor or TCU as a single champion, deferring to the league by-laws that call for co-champions in case of a tie, no matter the head-to-head winner.
Kansas State would have shared the title with TCU had it won, although the Wildcats, because of their loss to Auburn, wouldn’t have been in the playoff mix.
Still, the Wildcats remain the Big 12’s model of consistency since Bill Snyder returned to the sideline in 2009.
Saturday marked the end of the fourth year of a 10-team conference. K-State has the best record, 27-8, in that span, one game better than Oklahoma. This marked the third time in four years they went into the final weekend with a chance to grab at least a share of the title.
The Wildcats walked away dejected on Saturday. The Big 12 might find itself in that position on Sunday.